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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

112

Scientology and Me: Part One, Growing Up in the Church

The E-Meter

I was about the age Suri Cruise is now when I had my first session. Mickey, my first-grade teacher at the non-traditional school I attended, had announced that day that he would soon be leaving for a new job somewhere in California. All I remember now of Mickey is his warmth, and his soft, crinkly eyes and thick black beard, but the day he made his announcement, I was devastated in the way only a six-year-old can be – someone I loved was leaving me! The world had turned cruel. I trudged home to my mother, sobbing, and though I’m not sure who brought up the idea first, I knew a session was just what I needed.

Because my brother was an infant at the time, my mother wasn’t going into the mission regularly, and when she did auditing it was from home. I remember the E-meter set up on a table in the light-filled kitchen, the screen facing her. I sat across, gripping metal cans narrower than soda cans but still too big for child-sized hands. I felt excited, a little nervous, my sadness about Mickey already dulled by my entry into the adult world of the church and the confidence that I could make these painful feelings of loss go away.

The E-meter, short for electropsychometer, operates on the same principle as a lie detector, measuring electrical fluctuations from your skin believed by Scientologists to correspond to interior states and unconscious feelings. A high-level Dianetics (the ‘science’ upon which the practice of Scientology is based) auditor, my mother’s job was to guide her clients through whatever issues they were dealing with, using the E-meter as a tool to locate sources of mental turmoil they were not themselves conscious of. According to Dianetics, uncovering these sources — mental images known as engrams — rids them of ‘charge,’ which is seen both physiologically as it registers in the movement of the needle on the screen of the E-meter, and mentally as it binds an individual to illness, mental anguish, and unconscious impulses.

I was fascinated by the E-meter when I was little; wouldn’t you be? The machine promised to show you what was going on inside the black box of your brain and give you the power to change it. I sometimes turned the machine on and played with it secretly, but I knew from my mother that I couldn’t audit myself until I was older and trained to do so. It seemed like a kind of magic the way my mother was able to read my feelings through the E-meter, though to be fair my tear-stained six-year-old face probably made things pretty transparent. She identified the source of my upset (I was afraid I would never see Mickey again and that he would forget me), helped me to devise a solution (I could write to Mickey and perhaps someday we could visit him in California), and left me exultant as she ended the session with the words “your needle is floating.” I felt happy and in control.

A ‘floating needle’ meant, I knew, that all had been resolved. I knew this because my mother was an auditor and she made people happy, helped them to explore and eventually triumph over their problems. I remember a client showing up at the house with a bouquet of flowers for my mother, intense gratitude on his face. He credited her and the auditing she had given him with helping him to change his life. I didn’t see my mother’s clients often; she usually worked long hours at the mission, an independent Scientology franchise by that time subservient to the ‘orgs’ (short for organization) operated directly by an arm of the church.

My mother did most of her auditing at the mission, a place I remember as overwhelmingly brown, in that woody style of the late '70s/early '80s. I hung out there often, mostly because she couldn’t afford daycare, spending hours in the basement playing with the clay demos used in courses and trying out my atrocious jokes on the stressed-out staff. The atmosphere was so casual that I was sometimes allowed to take part in Dianetics training called the communications course — a set of techniques intended to help people become more comfortable in social situations. Part of what were called the TRs (short for training routines) for this course involved a drill called ‘bullbait;’ the student had to remain calm and focused while their partner, typically another student on the course, did whatever they could to make them laugh or otherwise break. My stretched-mouth-pig-nose-exposed-under-eyeballs-face took down many an otherwise excellent bullbaitee.

I loved being allowed in the adult world of the church, not only because I was a child who adored adult company but also because I, like the adults, was taken in by the feeling that I was part of something big and important. I remember when a new promotional film was released and the city org set up a viewing at a local movie theater. In the opening scene the earth was shown rotating on its axis, a great shadow spreading over it as the narrator proclaimed the rapid and unstoppable growth of Scientology. We had the power to make people better, stronger, to release them from negative emotions; I had seen evidence of this and even experienced it myself. I felt special and proud.

But the Church wasn’t always a good place to be a child. For a time I had attended a Scientology kindergarten where discipline involved long stretches of time in the corner reflecting on one’s misdeeds. After I came home crying from school on half a dozen occasions, my furious mother pulled me out of the school and found a way for me to start first grade early in Mickey’s class. Though an excellent auditor, my mother was not always the best Scientologist; she believed in and practiced church principles but was too stubbornly independent to swallow everything whole. When my mother used Scientology techniques (or ‘tech’ as we called it) on me, she did so gently, believing that reincarnated thetan (thetan being roughly equivalent to spirit or soul) or not, I was still a child. I was raised on the principles of Dianetics, but not the ones that you’ve probably heard about, because the parts of Scientology that are useful for things like dealing with personal relationships or teaching children about responsibility are too pragmatic and boring to attract the kind of attention that space aliens do. When I did something wrong — stole a cookie, failed to do a chore, tormented my little brother — I first had to be honest about it, avoiding an ‘overt’ that could perpetuate my bad behavior, identify the wrong I had done and who I had wronged, and finally devise suitable ‘amends’ so I could make things right.

I had arrived on the scene during the very end of my parents’ relationship, and since I only saw him on summer visits to the Midwest it took years for my father to figure out how to relate to me, let alone how to raise me (his default of mini golf, ice cream, and Six Flags season passes wasn’t bad, though). Scientology provided him with a road map for interaction, and though it was not always the right one, I think it was important to him to have guidance. As I seemed to always be scraping my knees or bonking myself in the head (too much mini golf and ice cream, perhaps) my father would frequently treat me with Scientology’s healing practice, a ‘touch assist,’ a technique employed by Scientology’s volunteer ministers (following emergencies from Ground Zero to the Haitian earthquake). An assist is a simple procedure that involves diverting attention from the source of pain or grief while providing a dose of basic human compassion. His voice even and soothing, my father would ask questions intended to orient me in my body. Where does it hurt? My knee. Can you touch your knee? Yes [touches knee]. Does your ear hurt? No. Where is your ear? [Points at ear.] Can you touch your ear? And on it would go, usually until I demanded an end. After I was seven or eight, I found the process a little ridiculous and sometimes wished for a simpler comfort, but I had to admit it helped.

My parents met in the church in the early 1970s and married young. In their wedding pictures, my mother is 19 with pale blond flat-ironed hair, thick eyeliner and pale lips, and a white velvet dress with bell sleeves trimmed in lace, my father just a few years older with muttonchops and a ruffled black dress shirt under his white tuxedo. Like the people who had decorated the house where I grew up in garish yellows and oranges and installed an avocado fridge, the people in these pictures seem confident these fads would endure. Certainly at the time Scientology seemed little different from many of the other faddish groups, movements, and subcultures that had sprung up following the uproar and instability of the 1960s. Like EST, TM, yoga, Up With People, or building your own geodesic dome, Scientology promised a new way to both transform yourself and create a better world. At the mission there were always copies of a popular booklet called “The Way to Happiness” lying around, and I remember being certain it would be the first course I would take when I was old enough; the cover featured a rainbow bursting above a grassy path. My Little Pony would have been at home there.

I don’t remember thinking of myself as different from other kids, but then there was nothing visibly Scientologist about me – nothing I had to do or couldn’t do because of my parents’  religion. Like most children, I was well attuned to strangeness among my peers and not particularly sensitive about showing my curiosity or judgment: a neighbor had some Mormon friends, and I was baffled as to why they weren’t allowed to drink soda – never in their whole lives? And what could soda have to do with a religion anyway? I may have thought of Scientology like others see their own religious practices, but I never thought of it as a religion: if I could have phrased it as such I would have described it as something like a scientific philosophy. And so I was stunned, if a bit excited, the first time I saw Airplane on television and caught a mention of Scientology in a clearly unflattering context:

If I had grown up in the church 20 or even 10 years later than I did, I’m sure I would have become inured to things like this, accustomed to all sort of passing insults to the church and to its members, and I’m sure I would have grown more defensive with outsiders, protecting myself and my family from embarrassment or attack by hiding our association with the church. Back then Scientology had few celebrities on its rosters and attracted little media attention, in large part because of its aggressive and litigious attacks on its detractors. The absence of the internet meant that I heard little outside criticism of Scientology; it also meant that when my mother started to grow disillusioned with the church she had nowhere to go to confirm her suspicions about the organization or to find a way out. But I don't doubt that children growing up in the church today feel any less than I did that they are a part of something important, that there is a kind of magic around the name L. Ron Hubbard. I’m sure they, like me, peep curiously into “Ron’s Office” — the roped-off room in every org filled with models of his ships, copies of his books, even a glass ashtray on his heavy wooden desk.

I remember how strange the darkened org looked in the flicker of candlelight on the night L. Ron Hubbard died, how excited I was to be entrusted with my own candle next to my mother and stepfather in all that awkward silence. I felt I had been lucky to have been alive while he had been alive, even though I’d never seen him in person, and imagined telling future generations about my attendance that night. Instead it became an anecdote to wield at parties, a way to mute the complexity of my family’s long entanglements with the church.

NEXT: What Scientologists actually believe.

Stella Forstner is a pseudonym for a Hairpin devotee who wishes to protect her family's anonymity.



112 Comments / Post A Comment

Emby

This is really, really fascinating and I'm looking forward to reading the rest!

Reginal T. Squirge

Yeah, I'm really scared for where this is going to go but I can't wait to read the next installment.

Ophelia

@Emby Ditto.

allendaniel

I don't think he hit that Scientologist hard enough.@a

PatatasBravas

This is great! And it's remarkable how many of the same questions I had about the religion in which I grew up. Kid-ness is a weird state of being.

Pyxis

@PatatasBravas I feel the same way! Especially the comment about the first time she saw Scientology portrayed in an unfavorable light. I remember watching some show, when I was a kid, that criticized my church and feeling shocked that people would say such a thing.

planforamiracle

This is so interesting! Does the "Ron's Office" thing mean that every Scientology place has/had a replica of L. Ron Hubbard's office?

Stella Forstner

@planforamiracle yes! I'm not sure if they've changed much since the last time I was in a mission about 10 years ago but from what I've heard they all still have them. Originally they were supposed to suggest that Ron might stop by any time; after he died they served as a memorial.

planforamiracle

@Stella Forstner That is really adorable and kinda macabre at the same time.

planforamiracle

Also, when I read "avocado fridge" I assumed it was (rather than an avocado-coloured fridge) a special fridge for avocados, and this seemed perfectly plausible. Like, warmer than a regular fridge, but cooler than room temp, to keep them from ripening too fast. Right?

I aspire to a life where I can have a dedicated fridge for avocados.

OhMarie

@planforamiracle My uncle has a banana fridge. He lives in a tiny apartment and has one of those kind of 60% normal size fridges, and his banana fridge is like dorm-sized, but it's still pretty great.

Pyxis

@OhMarie I have a little coke fridge that can fit one coke can in it. I always wondered why you would only want one cold coke. I keep my makeup remover pads in it instead.

Cavendish

I also grew up in Scientology, and it sounds like we're about the same age. My mom was "on staff" in the early 80s too. My mom is still in the church, but I'm unofficially not.

Thank you for writing with such clarity. I can't wait to read the rest.

Stella Forstner

@Cavendish oh wow, I feel lucky to have a reader so familiar with my story! Looking forward to hearing what you think about the rest of the piece.

White Rabbit

@Stella Forstner -- Hola! I'm also an unofficial former Scientologist, and I'm looking forward to reading your future installments! I say "unofficial" because I had to quietly distance myself so as not to incur their wrath. I also have family who are still active, and I don't want them to abandon me. I was introduced to it when I was an impressionable preteen, and I went so far as to join the Sea Org briefly. Thank you for showing that we're not all a bunch of wahckadoo crazies. There are actually a lot of incredibly hard-working, well-meaning, warm-hearted people in the "church" of Scientology, and as far as I'm concerned, their good intentions are being exploited in a terrible manner - I wish I knew of a way to help them see the light.

OhMarie

This is pretty great!

Bittersweet

This was really great. My parents got into Lifespring in the late 70s/early 80s, and some of the concepts they espoused during/after their training are pretty similar to what you're describing.

Phraseology question - why is it called auditing? It's such an unpleasant term, what with the immediate association with the IRS...

Stella Forstner

@Bittersweet That's an excellent question and I don't know the precise answer for it but I know the term was never meant to make anyone think of the IRS (the church HATES the IRS).

My desktop dictionary defines audit as "an official inspection of an individual or organization's accounts, typically by an independent body." Because Dianetics auditing is supposed to essentially purify your mind of stored negative images I imagine you could see that as a kind of '[mental] account inspection.'

But that's just my best guess. I'll talk more specifically about what auditing does in the next section.

Thanks for reading!

Cavendish

@Bittersweet It comes from the Latin "audire" meaning to hear or listen. The auditor is supposed to listen to and guide the person being audited, with very little verbal intervention other than acknowledging what they have said or asking very specific questions that are set for each "process" being audited. This is deliberately opposed to other types of therapies that may involve the counselor making suggestions or leading questions, or otherwise influencing the thoughts and ideas of the person being counseled.

Stella Forstner

@Cavendish Thanks!

MaryCanary

@Bittersweet: The term "Auditing" is carefully derived from the same root word as "audio," "auditory," "audition," etc., because it's related to listening.

Scientology and Dianetics auditing (counseling) distinguishes itself from other forms by that very clear name. It's entirely about the counselor listening, then giving the person the next direction to follow.

It's emphatically the opposite of those schools that tell you what's wrong with you, or tell you where your fear or obsession or addiction comes from. No counselor can know that! Only you can know--with a bit of careful guiding.

when you finish a session, you usually look back and laugh at how something that once affected you so deeply could now seem so trivial. Sometimes you need to do something in the material world to handle aspects of it. Sometimes it just "solves itself."

I've loved every auditing session I've ever had--whether I was giving or receiving the auditing.

itiresias

I'm really interested to read the rest. I actually had no idea what being involved with Scientology was actually like, when seeing the Master (and knowing it had Tom Cruise's "approval") provoked me to do some Internet searching...this will be more interesting and personal than that.

KLPA

Hey, thanks for writing this! My office is right next to a church of scientology and it seriously weirds me out...

UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren

@KLPA You are weirded out because you don't know anything about Scientology. Most organizations have a culture that is different from yours. In order to get by, you have to learn what the manners and policies are in that group. If you start acting crazy in Scientology, like at antagonism or below that, you will be treated accordingly. They don't usually tolerate that crap.

If you act sanely, above those critical emotional levels, you are treated with gold. Of course, they try to figure out why you're upset, but it's pretty known worldwide, there's no reason to argue with an angry person. Critics are angry, antagonistic. They tend to lie and exaggerate for effect or manipulation. Can you really trust an angry person?

You only believe you know about Scientology because of what you have heard from others. Getting creeped out is kind of creepy in itself. What makes you so fearful? Are you really at that low level of confront with other people? That's scary. I suggest you raise your ability to face the unknown to expand your world view. You might enjoy life more than you do. I'd get curious or interested to find out what they're about. So what if someone comes up to you while you're looking at videos over there. Scientologist love to communicate. They are in your face. It can be hard to experience, but if you are the winning type of personality, you won't feel uncomfortable.

I'd say that people who are attracted to Scientology are those who are courageous, able to confront people/life, not deterred easily, not needing to be liked by others, not needing to be comfortable, not easily cowed, have a strong desire to win, love children, think something is weird about psychiatry and more...Once people are out and talking smack, they've got an agenda.

There are all kinds of folks from other religions using Scientology technology. You apply it, not believe IN it. What I like most is how kids are treated with regard and respect. Their childhood difficulties have a solution, not just what many parents do nowadays, like roll-up their eyes and walk away when a child is upset or decide to give their "difficult" to control child psychiatric drugs and psychiatric counseling. That's not going to happen in a Scientology family.

I like that you can get rid of the reactive mind, get it, REACTIVE, which is the cause of mankind's evil tendencies. There is too much to explain here. It's a treasure trove of knowledge that helps anyone who cares to learn it and apply it. The services for processing are an added benefit if you wish to undertake it and they are worth more than their actual donation rates for what happens--basically, you get to help yourself BIG TIME. I love that people criticize Scientology because it is not for everyone.

REPEAT: Scientology is not for every one. It's to make the able more able. Really, it's not for everyone, so not all who get involved will do well. Some are too weak and have to be liked, made comfortable, some don't have enough self confidence, don't accept personal responsibility or are easily dissuaded by others. It's only for the folks who need the help and know they can get it from Scientology because they are WILLING to do the work, not be lazy, and learn to study properly to eventually learn.

Criticism of something powerful is common and it helps to weed out the weak participants who would only bog down or stop the progression of improvement in practitioner's lives. Say, for instance, if I have a friend who is really negative about Scientology and really wants to make me feel bad for being involved, for improving myself, and talking to this person actually makes me feel really horrible. I just stop talking to her. She's going to be way too busy being right for me to feel happy to be around her. That's why I've dumped some friends from my network, for the better. Imagine how sticky this gets when you have relatives and close family members who don't want you to have Scientology because of what they have heard in the media or on the
Internet.

Some controversial accusations are hard not to believe, or to get manipulated by, unless you can think for yourself. What are critics of Scientology trying to stop? It's not what they claim, because they are self-serving, but rather how dangerous (in a goog and bad way) some people can become when they get Scientolgy hatting/training, knowledge and auditing/processing. Abilities to handle other people who are not as aware can be profound and so it's not for everyone. I think the most ethical are the most worthy. There are many people out there who have left Scientology and there is no way they can get rid of what they learned or how they were changed by auditing/processing, but they can do great harm because of how powerful they are after that.

Their effects can be easy to impinge on others (the average raws person) like you would never imagine. Do not underestimate what you can do with Scientology, just the most amazing results in many areas of life. Just beware of the fear mongers, the critics who would want to take away your chance to try it out too. Some of them probably don't believe others should have the chance to improve. Scientology used along with your religious (Christian, Mormon, Etcetera) ethics is powerful stuff. In fact, Louis Farrakhan's speech about his discovery of Scientology to his flock found on YouTube is pretty amazing. Check it out. He gives biblical validations for why he is okay with Scientology for his group.

Hiroine Protagonist

@UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren

Oh my.

Hammitt

@Hiroine Protagonist

Oh my indeed.

piekin

@Hiroine Protagonist for me, it was more like AHHHHHHHHHHHHH

SoBeana

@piekin Yep, same here.

Hiroine Protagonist

@piekin I'm mildly startled at the breathtaking earnestness of the no spaces in the user name and the apparent blindness to the posting environment. Perhaps this is a new initiative? Commenting on any website google alerts you has uttered the precious name of Xenu? What's interesting is it isn't a wall of text. Kudos, anonymous and obviously unbiased commenter!

Kara Zor-el

@KLPA And some people just don't like it.

Leslie Hope@facebook

@UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren The basic assumptions of Dianetics are faulty. It's all autosuggestion. Don't let that interfere with your delusions, tho... http://www.xenu.net/archive/lrhbare/

White Rabbit

@UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren -- Your comment here is a perfect example of the kind of self-righteous, oblivious, condescending nastiness that helped inspire me to re-examine Scientology in the first place. I imagine it also does a tidy job of scaring off potential new recruits, so please keep it up!

"if you are the winning type of personality, you won't feel uncomfortable." <--- HAHAHA. This is a great example of the kind of thinking that keeps Scientologists oblivious. This, and telling themselves that anyone who criticizes the group "has an agenda." They refuse to consider the possibility that maybe, JUST MAYBE, there's a REASON a large swath of the human population has a problem with them.

As I mentioned above, in a different context, there are plenty of Scientologists who are NOT self-righteous, condescending jerks, but the ones who ARE function as giant, flapping red flags to outsiders.

sophi

This is really really wonderful, and I cannot wait for more parts!

shesaidshesaid

I grew up as a Christian Scientist (the grand old matron to scientology) but my memories are nowhere near as vivid as yours - impressive! looking forward to the next chapter.

anderin

That last sentence--"an anecdote to wield at parties, a way to mute the complexity of my family’s long entanglements with the church"--really resonated with me. As a former Mormon, I've found that most of my opportunities to talk about the church come in the form of little quips at parties... masking a drawn-out, often painful family history.

Jen Kiaba

@anderin @Stella Forstner That closing really resonated with me as well. Growing up in the Unification Church, there were so many weird norms and memories- how does one do them justice? Sometimes those quips at parties feel like an attempt to prove that "it happened, I'm over it - aren't I fascinating?" But really there is such an undercurrent of emotion and memory to deal with. Talking about these experiences, and talking about them with true emotion, I think is SO important. Yes, some people only want to hear our witty repartee about "fringe religions" but there are other people that are genuinely fascinated - and it's so wonderful to find those opportunities to do your own experiences justice, IMO.

Anyway, I'm so glad to read other people's accounts- it's so fascinating. Thank you so much Stella for sharing; I really look forward to reading the rest.

anderin

@Jen Kiaba Yes, I think you're spot on. It can be hard to know how to balance Talking About It versus Just a Quick Mention to Demonstrate How Interesting I Am, versus Maybe I'll Just Shut Up.

And sometimes I (we?) don't even get that choice. For a while I was routinely introduced by this one guy at parties as "This is anderin. She used to be Mormon! Isn't that so weird??" Then that guy moved to Japan and I didn't have to put up with it anymore. I like to be in control of that information, even though I'm not at all embarrassed by my past.

Stella Forstner

@anderin Yes, I know exactly how you feel! It feels at times like being objectified even when people's intentions are good -- I've definitely had friends pass me on as having stories of interest, not understanding that I don't necessarily want to talk about them with strangers.

Stella Forstner

@Jen Kiaba Thank you! I read your piece and found it extremely moving. I think it's so important to hear people's personal stories in concert with journalist accounts as a balance to all the sensationalism.

Jen Kiaba

@Stella Forstner And thank you! The personal stories, as long as they arent laced with a rabid resentment (and sometimes they are) are so important to hear. Especially for those of us who have chosen to leave those experiences behind - they are a reminder and a validation of our choices.

Jen Kiaba

@anderin I definitely relate to the "maybe I'll just shut up." I'm currently at a point in my life where I'm looking for relationships that allow for the safe space of reciprocal sharing.
That's terrible to simply be summed up at "hey guys, check out my friend The Freak!" Glad you no longer have to deal with that. I've encountered similar emotional ignorance, even having people ask me things like "So why did you get caught up with the Moonies?" It's difficult to try to explain to someone the indoctrination that goes on for someone who is subjected to it from birth. The whole thing requires a compassion that a party atmosphere cannot quite support.

julie lauren

@anderin have you ever read "shot through the heart" by mikal gilmore?

fondue with cheddar

Avocado green, harvest gold, burnt orange.

Stella Forstner

@fondue with cheddar that's it precisely. I blame pantone.

fondue with cheddar

@Stella Forstner I grew up in the late 70's/early 80's too! One does not forget those colors. :)

Hammitt

@fondue with cheddar

Is it wrong that I love them?

fondue with cheddar

@Hammitt I love them too! I hated them when I was a kid because they were everywhere, but eventually I came around. :)

area@twitter

This is wonderful and enlightening. Can't wait to read the next installment! (As an aside, the gulf between practicing Scientologists and the main church organization reminds me, to some extent, of the division many of my Catholic friends feel from their church. I feel there's some commonality there?)

Roger From Switzerland

This is a wonderful text. Exactly the way I aplied Child Dianetics to my kids - This book doesn't exist anymore in the Official Church of Scientology as it is too dangerous for them as when gently applied the kids are raised as independent beings that think for themselves.
Here the definition of audit:
audit (n.)

1431, from L. auditus "a hearing," pp. of audire "hear" (see audience).
Official examination of accounts, which were originally oral.
The verb is attested from 1557.
Auditor id attested from 1377, from Anglo-Fr. auditour, from L. auditorem (nom. auditor) "a hearer," from auditus.

Source(s):

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?sear…

Stella Forstner

@Roger From Switzerland Thank you Roger! I think so many of the basic principles of Dianetics are really excellent tools for raising children, I know I benefited from them.

Cyraenica

My parents also met in Scientology in the mid-70's. My mother is Clear and both were auditors. Unfortunately, the church recalled my father to Clearwater for training when my mother was 9 months pregnant with me and would not let him leave - so he ended up jumping a fence and using all of their savings to buy a plane ticket back home. My parents left the church after that, but I clearly remember them using touch assists and the like with me when I was a child - as well as playing with an e-meter in the basement :) I look forward to reading the rest of your series!

Stella Forstner

@Cyraenica There are too many stories like yours out there, I'm glad your parents didn't allow the church to bully them!

emilylou

Yes! Oh, I am so intrigued by all of this. I've read a ton of dramatic articles and the New Yorker piece and some stuff on exscientologykids.com etc etc etc. But never such an intimate and non-sensational first-person recollection. (Sidenote: I have no personal connection to Scientology,I just find it really fascinating and fall down Google/Wikipedia k-holes sometimes.) I'm excited to see where this series goes, thanks for sharing!

karion

You know, I think of myself as a mostly open-minded person, but I realized midway through this piece that I had never read a Scientology piece with anything except smug disbelief.

I read this piece differently. I needed a smug check, today of all days, and I can't wait to read more.

Stella Forstner

@karion Thank you, that's so gratifying to read. I'm glad the piece gave you another perspective :)

Scnethics

This is so well-written! I look forward to the next installment.

TrilbyLane

Beautifully written, and as others have said, the first time I've read an insider account from someone who doesn't seem to just be a robot spouting insincere condescending salesspeak (um, howdy there, UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren. Your username makes you seem super-real and rational. Also love how you made the made-up negative friend a 'she', cos of this being a ladyblog! WE WOMANCREATURES RESPOND TO SUCH ATTENTION TO DETAIL. WITH OUR WOOOOOOOMBS). Really great choice to write and to publish this. Should it not be a book?

Hammitt

@TrilbyLane Aaaalso loved how that particular rant of UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren came down to: "if you don't like scientology, it's probably because you are weak, self-centered, and fundamentally deficient. Also, this is the Truth, but you can deny it or see it, but not argue that it is not, in fact, the Truth, but rather something I believe."

Those always are the markers of a really rational and convincing argument.

nonvolleyball

@Hammitt I don't know, I always feel completely trusting of first-time commenters whose handles are DramaticEdictRelatedToTopicAtHand & whose posts are fully half the length of the piece they're responding to.

Stella Forstner

@TrilbyLane Wow, thank you! I've never thought about making this a book but there are 5 sections still to come...

Myrtle

@Stella Forstner Another vote for book, as it's always a thrill to read a true account, of anything.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

I'm a minority religionist, so I tend to feel an affinity for other minority religionists (and for atheists, too, who face similar challenges). But it's hard for me to expand that to Scientology. I'm trying to think about why. This article is helpful in that regard, thanks.

melis

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Which one is it!!! Don't make me guess

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@melis
The Living Internationalists!

melis

WHAT IS THAT google reveals nothing

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Haha, glad to know you're not my stalker.

Point being, my stalker is saving a copy of every post I've ever written in a fur-covered box, and would have remembered.

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I forgot we were the same religion (ok, the amount I practice is questionable, but it's definitely the box I check under religion and ethnicity on the census)! that I also use as a party anecdote sometimes when things get dull...

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
How likely is it I know you? Let's see if we can figure it out without posting any specific information about ourselves! Did you go to one of the denomination's colleges? I went to the one starting with G.!

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll baha. we probs do know each other or for sure have mutual friends/acquaintances. I am canadian, though, and went to another college, with a nickname that starts with g. i also did a volunteer program for 1 year and i will give you a million likes if you can guess which ngo it was with. it is for this reason that i should have a fake email that bears no resemblance to my name...

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
What city were you in for the volunteer program? That's the best next-step I can think of. This Canadian-ness is going to foil me, I fear!

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll i fear it might. i went to central america. hm. are you from near g. college area? when did you graduate? what is an appropriate question to ask on the interwebz without giving out too much information?

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
I'm not too worried about myself! That is, I'm not too worried about someone (like you) who knows me from Hairpin comments figuring out who I am. My larger concern is making sure that my Hairpin comments aren't accessible to people who know me in my real life. So that requires avoiding terms that search engines can find!

Anyway, I'm from Pa., graduated from G. in 2003.

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I determine, then, that I do not know you. You are a few years older than me (based on grad year anyway), so the people I know from your college started your last year, or the following fall.
Like you, I fear that I am too searchable already. And frankly, places I'm applying to for jobs do not need to know some of the stuff I've put on the Pin.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
Aah, so we cannot succeed! Understandable, and unsurprising, I think. Best of luck in your job search!

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll because I love menno-stalking (I in no way endorse actual stalker behaviour) I will give you my temporary travel related blog. it is rebeccaj who travels without the word who and it is on wordpress.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@theotherginger
Yep, definitely don't know you. Too bad, because it looks like you've got a super-cool life. If you're ever in Chicago (or if I ever go through with my plan to visit the DF), let's hang out!

theotherginger

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll dude. why didn't I know you when I was in Chicago last year? If I return (and I want to, because I thought the city was super cool) I will let all of the hairpin know.

stewart

@Stella Forstner: I think this is a well-written article; I enjoyed reading it. I'm a current, practising Scientologist, and have a 5 year old daughter. I'm anxious to use the best of Scientology correctly with her, without going "overboard" or forcing it off on her, so your story has value to me. (Study tech, in particular, I use daily for myself, so it's natural to use its principles in learning to read.)

@Roger From Switzerland: I bought a new copy of Child Dianetics from New Era earlier this year, so it's not true to say "it doesn't exist anymore".

Julie Ebeling Humphreys@facebook

@stewart I accidentally upvoted your answer and would like to publicly rescind that. I do not agree with anything Scientology.

Stella Forstner

@stewart Thank you Stewart! As I mentioned above I think there are aspects of Dianetics that are great tools for raising children. Just a heads up though -- in later sections of this piece I am critical of some of the church's practices and I talk about some higher level tech. I have no interest in offending anyone, I'm just telling my family's story.

Julie Ebeling Humphreys@facebook

@UsePatienceEffectivesNOTPsychDrugsWithChildren is a Scientologist charged with refuting "anti" Scientology posts on the internet, probably from their arm called the "Office of Special Affairs" or OSA. Looks like he works for Narconon, too. He may have found this by reading http://ortegaunderground.wordpress.com/
which is how I found it. They troll that site.
Great article, Stella! I look forward to all the installments. How can I be notified when the next one is released?

Stella Forstner

@Julie Ebeling Humphreys@facebook I'm not sure when the next is coming out myself -- it's all up to the editors. Keep checking back! Thanks for the support and for the insights into OSA operations -- I don't keep up with that stuff...

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ShannonRTW

I found this post through your third installment and am fascinated by the honesty and lack of sensationalism--you have me hooked because it's like watching a window into someone's life and being told you can take your own opinions away, not being shoved other ideas. I have zero affiliation with the Church of Scientology (except for being from Clearwater and seeing the buildings/community a lot!). I look forward to the final installments and appreciate your willingness to layout your ideas, experiences, and impressions.

Stella Forstner

@ShannonRTW Thank you so much!!

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